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  1. #1

    Tidal & Spotty Plugins

    As a long-term LMS user and Tidal subscriber, I have been streaming Tidal for a while now using first the ickstream plugin and more recently the official tidal plugin (v1.2). I have also been following the development of the spotty plugin with interest and last week decided to give it a first-hand whirl and compare the sound quality to tidal's flac. I do not mean to start a new is it audible or not discussion. This is not a mp3 vs flac test; this is more about the respective performances of the plugins.

    With the tidal plugin each song starts life as a 256k CBR as displayed in the "now playing" section. then it checks whether you have a tidal hifi account and the credentials. when the checks are made, the stream changes to VBR flac in a matter of seconds. the sound quality is not bad, but i was always puzzled by on-the-fly transition from 256k CBR to VBR. how does it happen instantaneously and seamlessly each time? i sometimes wondered whether we listened to 256k mp3 transcoded to flac.

    with the excitement the spotty plugin created in the forums, i finally opened spotify premium account, installed the plugin, entered the credentials, checked the relevant options and started listening. i consider myself an audiophile and have a fairly high resolution system around the raidho d series speakers.

    i was able to transfer all my playlists from tidal to spotify with the help of the excellent soundizz app. one needs to enter her username and passward in the soundizz wep page which might irk some but i went ahead anyways. everything went smoothly and i transferred all my playlists to spotify. in all instances but one whatever song i had on tidal was also available in spotify. i think spotify is slightly better with its data base of songs especially with obscure or local content but i did not consider it a differentiator with my musical taste (modern jazz, rock and some classical).

    over a listening period of 1 week, i consistently preferred spotify through the spotty plugin over tidal through the tidal plugin. once again, this is not a mp3 vs flac or spotify vs tidal comparison. (in my experience, flac is the clear and audible winner. even when they are similar, flac has the psychological advantage for me). spotty sounded fuller with deeper bass and with better placement of instruments. i kept returning to spotty and now consider it an indispensable plugin.

    there is continuous development, frequent updates and an active community of participants. i urge everyone with a tidal account to to test spotty and see if the findings are similar.
    Last edited by mcduman; 2019-01-24 at 04:25.

  2. #2
    Senior Member bernt's Avatar
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    For some reason I prefer Spotty over Spotify via CCA or Airplay. The sound is more "relaxed, fun".......hard to explain, can't put my finger on it......
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  3. #3
    Senior Member Mnyb's Avatar
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    Hi

    Spotty has a couple of relevant settings that may impact the experience you can choose up to 320kbps OGG as bitrate/compression this is very good considering that ogg may be better than mp3.
    It is also possible to turn volume normalisation on/off per player ,this can impact the perceived loudness/quality level if used .

    I don't know what settiongs the tidal plugin offers ?

    Also check out the "default adjustment for remote streams" parameter in LMS player settings which gives a volume adjustment to remote streams , usually to counter that online radio for example boost the volume as high as possible in many cases.

    Then you can run into some subtle problems when trying to compare .

    * is the volume really the same between these two services ? probably not .

    * what master are they using ? it's quite possible that it's not the same version on spotify/tidal/your local CD so that gives you apples,oranges and bananas to compare with ? No streaming service does any QC they let the labels/artist do the work and upload what they deem proper .

    * spotty always transcode to flac or wav before sending it to your squeezebox . How does the tidal plugin doing it ?
    The onboard mp3 decoder in for example old hardware squeezeboxes can have audible artifacts that on server transcoding avoids by using the lame decoder which is really good .
    I have heard that with some actual music on some tracks you hear the diff 256kBs mp3 vs flac . If let LMS do the transcoding the diffrence is gone . This is a rare artefact but it exists for some tracks.
    The bug is filed somewhere in our buggzilla .

    However I tried for myself to compare Spotify against a local CD picked some not mainstream acoustic blues record on a small label . Making it somewhat unlikely they even have several versions/masters to pick from (but you can not really know for sure) .
    Worst pick would be Miles Davis Kind of blue or some Michael Jackson albums that exist in countless versions where all sounds diffrent.

    Result: I could not say with any confidence that there was a difference . In that case .

    But I have also noted that audio quality varies on Spotify !
    Sometimes it's not good it may depend on whatever the label uploaded and the spotify service itself is not the limiting factor.

    I also suspect that at 256k mp3 or 320kps OGG you have come to limit where the audio format starts to become a non issue (it definitely a non issues at >16/44.1 lossles or better )

    The real issue is the actual sound quality of the recording itself and its master so the limiting factor is neiter spotify or tidal or your CD .
    Most of the older rock and pop albums so well liked does not have an intrinsic audio quality that challenges the CD even if HD tracks really want you to buy the 24/192kHz version.
    I have not retired yet so i have not spent time in for example Steve Hoffmans forum to track down the ultimate versions of my favourite records .
    Suppose thats they way to go if one wants to be sure you get the best audio quality not bits and bitrates or delivery format . Spend time tracking down the ultimate version.

    I do like the spotty plugin an what it brings me , I have discovered a lot of music with Spotify playlist and suggestions based on my playing habits .
    And the search is good in Spotify's app . Thats also important when comparing services how well they makes you explore new music and discover stuff .

    I only tried Tidal(wimp) for a very short time long ago so I cant compare how well it worked regarding smart playlists and all.
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  4. #4
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    MnyB hit the nail on the head, and in summary there are a lot of intricacies that impact the quality besides format.

    I've not tried Tidal, but I do have all my local music in FLAC and run Spotty at it's highest settings. I generally don't tell a difference between the two other than volume (thanks for the tip on the setting for streaming as I didn't know there was one there). On the rare occasions I do hear differences, I can usually attribute it to different source (remasters, original cd releases, bit-rate and frequency, etc). Stepping back a bit, though, I mostly like Spotty because of its library, and in most casual listening environments, I can try before I buy, which has saved me money in the long run and allowed me to entertain my need for the ultimate versions of albums.

  5. #5
    many thanks for the input. i was aware that this was going to be an apples to oranges comparison. just wanted to point out that spotty is an overachiever, coming out on top of the tidal plugin in many instances. may be others have had the same experience with these plugins.

    meanwhile, the on-the-fly conversion from 256k CBR to VBR continues to intrigue me with the tidal plugin. perhaps mherger could shed further light on how this plugin works:

    1. press play and receive 256k constant bit rate mp3
    2. check if user is subscribed to tidal hifi
    3. switch seamlessly to variable bit rate flac if user name and password are authenticated

  6. #6
    Senior Member Mnyb's Avatar
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    yes spotty fits me . I often use spotify on the go when at work add some new stuff, go home and listens to it via spotty.
    Then purchase the really good stuff for real and the ok stuff reains as albums in spotify .

    Really great for exploration of new stuff
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    Main hifi: Rasbery PI digi+ MeridianG68J MeridianHD621 MeridianG98DH 2 x MeridianDSP5200 MeridianDSP5200HC 2 xMeridianDSP3100 +Rel Stadium 3 sub.
    Bedroom/Office: Boom
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    iPad with iPengHD & SqueezePad
    (spares Touch, SB3, reciever ,controller )
    server Intel NUC Esxi VM Linux mint 18 LMS 7.9.2

    http://people.xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html

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